The phrase “don’t try this at home” doesn’t really apply to the lurkers and posters of the nootropics subreddit. In fact, a healthy dose of trial and error comes with the territory for those seeking information on the cognitive enhancers not quite approved by the FDA.
Nootropics and adaptogens can be used somewhat interchangeably. The former are defined as supplements, drugs or other substances claimed to improve the “cognitive functions of healthy subjects, in particular memory, attention, creativity and intelligence,” while adaptogens — or adaptogenic substances — are defined as herbs or substances that increase “mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue.”
Don’t let the scientific jargon scare you off; the two terms encapsulate stuff like ginseng, maca, reishi mushrooms, ashwagandha — herbs and fungi you could just as easily spot at a CVS or Walgreens as you would growing in nature. The connection between adaptogens/nootropics and sex is as well-documented around the world, offering the hot and horny opposers of Big Pharma hope for a more natural approach to sexual enhancement than a certain little blue pill. So, how is it that a combination of dried-up herbs and plants can bring about effects rumored to be comparable with FDA-approved medications like Viagra?
Rachael Gorjestani founded Goldmine back in 2018. Based in San Francisco, Goldmine sells different adaptogen blends in powder forms that are intended to be sipped in coffee or tea. Their goal? Make adaptogens less intimidating for the masses while promoting all-around wellness.
“Not every herb is an adaptogen,” says Gorjestani. To qualify, “an herb has to interact with the adrenal gland network in the body. The adrenals are these two bean-size glands that sit on top of the kidneys and they talk with your thyroid. They talk with your pituitary gland and take in information and stimuli from our environment that lets us know if we’re safe or in danger.”
We live in a society where stressors like existential dread or a Slack from your boss that reads “Hey, have a second to chat?” can cause our bodies to go into fight or flight mode, which leads to a very tense baseline feeling. Adaptogens communicate with our hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands at a molecular level to help regulate and counteract the effects of stress — and this is where things get sexy. Take ashwagandha — a revered herb within the Indian Ayurvedic system that’s been known for years to positively affect sexual and reproductive balance by hacking brain chemistry. The effects of this herb include increased sperm count, enhanced sperm motility and improved overall sperm quality, all while enhancing your body’s resilience to stress.
Ashwagandha is one of the many herbs frequently discussed on r/Nootropics, a “wonder herb” that — when stacked with others like maca or pygeum — can give men the boost in sexual desire they need. There’s one particular stack that’s been making the rounds on the internet for almost a decade: the holy grail.
“It’s probably not surprising to know that the idea and recipe of how to increase how much you cum originated on 4chan,” says the founder of AZTech Supplements. “The core ingredients are maca, l-citrulline, sunflower lecithin, pygeum and celery seed extract. Maca is a very well-known and well-attested aphrodisiac. Like all products of nature, the studies are lacking, but the personal research and testimonials are pretty widespread.” The company is one of few that commercially produces the holy grail supplement in one easy-to-swallow (albeit massive) pill.
“The lecithin, pygeum and celery seed extract all work to help increase cum and pre-cum,” he adds. “Funnily enough, the use of celery seed came from Tommy Lee’s autobiography, where he stated that he had a party at his house where Peter North was invited so he could specifically ask him how he shot such big loads. He told Tommy it was from eating a lot of celery before every shoot. It’s a digestive enzyme people mainly take to help with inflammation. But because there are a lot of anecdotal stories from women claiming pineapple juice helped improve the taste of their men’s cum, we decided to include it.”
The proof behind the effectiveness of the aforementioned herbs is admittedly not as strong as the anecdotal evidence going back hundreds of years to the Peruvian highlands. Today, those anecdotes live on in places like Reddit, where users can give specific details about the herbs they take and the direct effects of said herbs while recalling their experiences with a level of detail you just couldn’t get back in the 16th century.
Because so many herbs and adaptogens still aren’t FDA-approved, someone interested in diving into the world of “herbal Viagra” has to do their due diligence to ensure their body doesn’t react poorly to these adaptogens.
“Always seek advice from a trusted practitioner and hopefully one that knows about herbs,” adds Gorjestani. “The American Botanical Council has some free workshops that are fascinating and informative about top research on herbs.”
As far as advice for people wanting to dip their toes in the adaptogen scene, Gorjestani suggests starting off with a slow cooker full of mushrooms. For real.
“Fill up a slow cooker, add in slices of reishi, chaga, cordyceps, you could do ashwagandha in that too, and put it on low for like 10 hours. Drinking that as a tea throughout the day is a nice way to acquaint yourself with adaptogens.”
Whether you go the route of pills, powders, chocolate or a crock pot full of mushroom water, the options — and access to information — we now have is a massive improvement from where we were even a decade ago. True, you may not have as much luck in the pharmacy section of CVS as you would with Goldmine or AZTech, but the fact that you can buy ashwagandha with the same ease as a gallon of milk is encouraging.